Verdicts due against Cambodian Khmer Rouge leaders

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
16 PHOTOS
Khmer Rouge
See Gallery
Verdicts due against Cambodian Khmer Rouge leaders
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in the court room during a hearing at a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The U.N.-backed tribunal on Wednesday began a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of the two senior surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, under whose rule an estimated 1.7 million people died in the late 1970s from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Mark Peters)
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nuon Chea, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, waits before his final statements at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea has denied all charges against him on the last day of a trial for leaders of the Cambodian regime widely blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Mark Peters)
In this July 30, 2014 photo, Cambodians line up at a court entrance before a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of two surviving leaders Khieu Samphan and Noun Chea, at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A U.N.-assisted court on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 will deliver its verdicts in a case against the two most senior surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, charged with crimes against humanity. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this July 30, 2014 photo, Cambodian Buddhist monks read the court document books during a court break of a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of two surviving leaders Khieu Samphan and Noun Chea, at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A U.N.-assisted court on Thursday, Aug 7, 2014 will deliver its verdicts in a case against the two most senior surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, charged with crimes against humanity. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in the court room during a hearing at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. A U.N.-backed tribunal on Wednesday began a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of the two senior surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, under whose rule an estimated 1.7 million people died in the late 1970s from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Mark Peters)
A Cambodian woman, left, helps her collage for sticking a court pass as they wait before a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of two surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Cambodian Buddhist monks and villagers sit in the court room during a hearing at a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The U.N.-backed tribunal on Wednesday began a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of the two senior surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, under whose rule an estimated 1.7 million people died in the late 1970s from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nhet Sok Heng)
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in the court room during a hearing at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The U.N.-backed tribunal on Wednesday began a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of the two senior surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, under whose rule an estimated 1.7 million people died in the late 1970s from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Mark Peters)
Cambodians line up at a court entrance before a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of two surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A Cambodian Buddhist monk, left, gets off from a bus as he and villagers arrive at a court entrance before a hearing to prepare for the genocide trial of two surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, July 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this July 28, 2014, photo, So Sam Ol, 55, a driver for an English language school in Phnom Penh. He has five children, and hopes that the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders will help purge the bitter past and allow Cambodians to concentrate on a brighter future. A U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal will deliver a verdict this coming Thursday in the trial of the two top leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge, whose extremist policies in the late 1970s are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians though starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this July 28, 2014, photo, Dyma Lyneth, 25, is a sinior mass media and communications student. She said she learned about the Khmer Rouge from her parents and her teachers. "According to what I learned, many Cambodians were killed, especially highly educated people, without even knowing what they might have done wrong in the eyes of their killers." A U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal will deliver a verdict this coming Thursday in the trial of the two top leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge, whose extremist policies in the late 1970s are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians though starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this July 28, 2014, photo, Phon Path, 54, is a farmer in the southern province of Kampong Speu. As a teen, he was forced by the Khmer Rouge to plant rice, dig canals and build dams. A U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal will deliver a verdict this coming Thursday in the trial of the two top leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge, whose extremist policies in the late 1970s are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians though starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this July 28, 2014, photo, Chhin Hun, 23, a student of design and architecture, learned about the Khmer Rouge from his parents and at school. "My idea is that the tribunal should proceed with its work with fairness, and not delay its proceedings quite often, as it does. The more the trial is delayed, the more worry it causes Cambodians that the two defendants could die before it is completed,” Chhin Hun said. A U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal will deliver a verdict this coming Thursday in the trial of the two top leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge, whose extremist policies in the late 1970s are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians though starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nuon Chea, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, center, smiles before his final statements at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea has denied all charges against him on the last day of a trial for leaders of the Cambodian regime widely blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Mark Peters)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

By TODD PITMAN and SOPHENG CHEANG

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Three and a half decades after the genocidal rule of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge ended, a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal is due to deliver its first verdicts Thursday in a historic case against the only two leaders of the regime left to stand trial.

Khieu Samphan, the regime's 83-year-old former president, and Nuon Chea, its 88-year-old chief ideologue, face sentences ranging from five years to life for their role in the 1970s terror. Both men, in dire health, have denied any wrongdoing.

The case, covering the forced exodus of millions of people from Cambodia's towns and cities and a mass killing, is just part of the Cambodian story. Nearly a quarter of the population died under their rule, through a combination starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution when the group held power in 1975-79.

Many have criticized the slow justice, and its cost. The tribunal, formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and comprising of Cambodian and international jurists, began operations in 2006. It has since spent more than $200 million, yet it has only convicted one defendant - prison director Kaing Guek Eav, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2011.

The current trial began in November 2011 and started out with four Khmer Rouge leaders. Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary died in 2013, while his wife, Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, was deemed unfit to stand trial due to dementia in 2012. The group's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea have both been charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. Any sentence is likely to be a death sentence since both men are in frail health and have required occasional hospitalization during the trial.

Khieu Samphan has acknowledged that mass killings took place. But testifying before the court in 2011, he claimed he was just a figurehead who had no real authority. He denied ordering any executions himself, calling the allegations a "fairy tale." Instead, he blamed Pol Pot for its extreme policies.

He also said he believed when he was young, that communism - which Khmer Rouge cadres took to the extreme, virtually enslaving the entire population in a bid to create an agrarian utopia - had given him hope when he was young, and the movement had opposed a pro-Western regime and neighboring Vietnam, Cambodia's traditional enemy.

Nuon Chea, who is known as Brother No. 2 for being Pol Pot's trusted deputy, has appeared less repentant. At the start of the trial, in 2011, he blamed Vietnamese forces for killing Cambodians. "I don't want them to believe the Khmer Rouge are bad people, are criminals," he said of those observing to the trial. "Nothing is true about that."

Because of the advanced age and poor health of the defendants, the case against them was divided into separate smaller trials in an effort to render justice before they die.

Whatever the outcome Thursday, both defendants face a second trial that is due to start by year's end, this time on charges of genocide. That trial is expected to take years to complete.

Suon Mom, 75-year-old woman whose husband and four children starved to death during the Khmer era, said she is keen to see justice finally served, even if it is generations late.

"My anger remains in my heart," she said. "I still remember the day I left Phnom Penh, walking along the road without having any food or water to drink ... Hopefully the court will sentence the two leaders to life in prison.

Some say the money that financed the trial should have been spent on helping survivors instead, or on the impoverished country's infrastructure.

Chea Chhunleng, a 23-year-old business student, said he was not opposed to harsh sentences for the two leaders, but said the trial could not change the past.

It "can only provide justice ... only the word justice. That is all," he said.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners